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A destructive obsession

February 26, 2003 17:55 IST

With Julie Ganapathy, Balu Mahendra proves even after five years he has not lost his toucA still from Julie Ganapathyh as director.

Julie Ganapathy frightens, scares and shocks you. Yet, you love the film.

Julie (Saritha) is an obese, disturbed woman who possibly murdered her husband in a fit of jealousy. Her story is incomplete without Thenkasi Balakumaran (Jayaram), a popular writer of Tamil television serials.

Balu, a Malayalee born and brought up in Thenkasi, writes the much loved serial Manga. Julie identifies strongly with its protagonist Manga and that makes her crazy about the serial and its writer.

She calls herself Balu's number one and most loyal fan.

Balu goes to a hotel at a hill-station, as has been his practice, to write the final 25 episodes of the serial. On his way back, he meets with a near fatal accident and is rescued by Julie Ganapathy.

The narrative gains momentum from this point on. Julie couldn't have asked for more. She has her favourite writer in her home with broken legs, a sprained arm and a bruised body. She nurses him with the demented intensity of the jealous and maniacal lover that she is.

While the outside world searches for the writer, Julie keeps him to herself without anyone -- not even the watchman of her bungalow -- aware of his presence. As her mood swings, Julie's behaviour changes. Compassionate and loving one moment, violently obsessive the next. She threatens and abuses Balu one moment but becomes caring and gentle the next.

Balu is practically locked inside the room. In the beginning, Julie makes him believe that the town is cut off due to heavy rain. Slowly, he realises he has become a prisoner. As he gets desperate to escape, she becomes the mad jailer.

She also turns violent when she gets to read the last episodes of the serial where the protagonist dies. After burning the pages, she asks him to turn the story into a happy ending. Every day, every moment in Balu's life becomes a struggle from then on.

To the director's credit, he sustains the viewers' interest with just two characters in a room. They are not the typical hero and heroine -- Balu, the hero, is confined to the bed. Julie, the heroine, is an unattractive woman.

If it were not for Saritha who makes a grand comeback with this film and Jayaram, Julie Ganapathy would not have been half as powerful. Julie trudges the thin line between sanity and insanity. Very rarely do you see restrained performances from artistes portraying eccentric characters on the Indian screen. Not once does Saritha cross the line. Her mood swings are so convincing and abrupt that she keeps you on tenterhooks.

It is a difficult role for Jayaram -- as a bed-ridden patient, he has to emote with his eyes alone. He turns in a very good performance. Like the audience, he is frightened, scared and helpless in front of the unpredictable Julie.

Ramya Krishnan as Balu's wife doesn't have to do much so also the other characters.A still from Julie GanapathyThe film is not without flaws. One can't understand why Balu Mahendra decided to insert a seductive number by Ramya Krishnan in the film. She is portrayed as Balu's very ordinary wife but she pops up as sultry 'Ramya Krishnan' in a sequence totally out of place and unwarranted. It only takes your mind off the intense narrative.

Another sore point is the jarring and loud background score. Indian films still cannot accept that sometimes silence can be far more effective than loud noises.

Except for these discordant notes, Julie Ganapathy is a film worth watching.

Shobha Warrier